Jun 8, 2012 / Uncategorized

Racial Disparities in Maryland’s Incarceration Rates – State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – Comments Due by July 5

by Melissa Broome

On June 5, the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hosted a briefing in Annapolis to gather information on racial disparities in incarceration rates in Maryland prisons. Numerous policymakers and justice advocates, including myself, testified before the committee to urge further exploration of this area.

A June 18 editorial from the Baltimore Sun (Our view: The NAACP and ACLU were right to protest racial disparities in Maryland’s criminal justice system) provides an overview of the briefing and highlights the fact that the U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, surpassing even repressive regimes such as Russia, China and Iran. Maryland Reporter also covered the event (High incarceration rates punish taxpayers as well, panelists say) noting the residual effects that a criminal record has on employment prospects.

It is well documented that African-American men are arrested, convicted and jailed at much higher rates than whites. They are also more likely to serve longer terms once they enter the system. At the same time, many studies have shown that blacks do not commit significantly more crimes than whites. The Gazette’s coverage of the briefing (Bias in state criminal justice system persists, advocates say) notes that more than 72 percent of Marylanders in prison are African-American despite blacks making up only 29.4 percent of the statewide population.

The June briefing was described by the committee chair as being purely investigatory. There’s no guarantee that the committee will study the issue further or forward a report on criminal justice disparities on to the national commission. Consequently it’s extremely important that service providers, advocates, and individuals directly affected by Maryland’s criminal justice system submit written testimony urging the State Advisory Committee to take further action. The deadline to submit written comments and documents is July 5, 2012. These should be e-mailed to ero@usccr.gov. Feel free to contact JOTF if you need additional information.

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